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On Our Shelf: Contagious by Jonah Burger

We like reading. Sometimes we read books that bring us perspective as business owners and professionals that we didn't have before. Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Burger is one book which is making the rounds about the office.


I have to give a hat tip to Danielle over at the Cork for pointing this book in my direction to begin with. It was during a meeting discussing marketing ideas for her great wine shop in Waterbury, VT that she brought the book up. I'm glad she did.

Beregr tackles the difficult question of what makes things go viral - that is, why do some ideas catch on while others langush? What makes people share what they see, read or experience? The book takes you on a tour of example after example of campaigns that have succeeded and then analysis as to why. It is both highly entertaining and seriously fascinating.

Toward the end of the book is a chart that summarizes the key factors along with questions to ask yourself as you plan your marketing campaign in hopes of virality. These six factors include:

  1. Social Currency - making people feel like insiders where knowledge of the product or service makes people want to share because it makes them feel good to be "in the know"
  2. Triggers - Being aware of cues that make people think of the product
  3. Emotion - How emotion plays a part in virality and how you can harness this
  4. Public - Is the product or service something that is public? Is it clearly visible to the public when someone uses your product?
  5. Practical Value - Does sharing your campaign help people help others?
  6. Stories - How does your product fit into a broader story?

It seems on the surface from this list that perhaps there are no new ideas here and to some extent you'd be right, but Berger does an astounding job of making a dry subject riveting and ultimately, shareable. It is fitting that our first book review be this one. If you are at all interested in marketing this is a must-read.